01 September 2011

Carduelis tristis

Last weekend I hiked with the SWBA group at the Pheasant Branch Conservancy.  We spotted about a dozen species of butterflies, but the highlight of the walk for me came as I was scanning the thistle plants looking for nectaring insects.
One of the thistles was looking back at me.  Only about five feet off the trail, but reasonably camouflaged was the nest of an American Goldfinch:
She remained perfectly immobile for the several minutes it took me to capture her portrait, but when my camera strap jiggled, she fluttered a short distance away, revealing a beautiful nest and her four five eggs:
I am repeatedly in awe of the fact that creatures with no hands can create such intricate structures.  From Wikipedia:
The nest is built in late summer by the female in the branches of a deciduous shrub or tree at a height of up to 10 meters (30 ft). The nest-building lasts approximately six days, during which time the female works in 10–40 minute increments. The male frequently flies with the female as she collects nesting materials, and though he may carry some materials back to the nest, he leaves its construction to the female. The outer shell of the nest is built of bark, weeds, vines, and grass.  The inside diameter of the finished nest is about 6.5 centimeters (2.5 in). The rim is reinforced with bark bound by spiderwebs and caterpillar silk, and the cup is lined with plant down from milkweed, thistle, or cattail. The nest is so tightly woven that it can hold water, and it is possible for nestlings to drown following a rainstorm if the parents do not cover the nest
Before I was even out of sight down the trail, she was back on her nest to incubate and hide her precious eggs.


  1. Look closely, don't you mean "her five eggs" (or perhaps "her four eggs and one cuckoo's")?

  2. Congratulations, you're lucky :). Very nice bird.

  3. I think you're right, acb420. I tried to stay back from the nest and hadn't seen the fifth one.

    Text amended. Tx.

  4. The photo of mama on her nest is beautiful. I like the way she's looking at you. Great shot!

  5. The goldfinches are a beautiful sight here in the summer and I always look forward to seeing them feeding or dipping in flight and hearing their chirping. I've never seen a nest. Thanks.

  6. Wonderful picture.

    We have lesser goldfinches here in the southwest. We were at a garden center a few months ago- one citrus tree was marked "not for sale, NEST" and there was a tiny goldfinch at eye level, braving ignoring shoppers.


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